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You Asked: Smoking, Running, and Lungs?

Dear FitSugar,
I have recently quit smoking after about two years of the habit, smoking between one to five cigarettes a day. I want to start running, but I wonder if my lungs are permanently damaged from smoking. Please help.
— Kicked the Butts

First off, let me congratulate you on quitting smoking. One cigarette a day is one too many in my book, and quitting is one of the best things your can do for your short-term and long-term health. I also think it's great that you want to start running. It is my favorite form of cardio and just feels great. I have some good news on how your lungs are doing, so


The good news is that the benefits of quitting smoking begin almost immediately. The first benefit is that your blood pressure returns to normal about 20 minutes after the last puff of your last cigarette. After about three days, your bronchial tubes will relax, making it easier for you to breathe, and that increases the oxygen flow of your lungs, improving your energy levels. Doesn't that make you want to get out there and test your lungs right now? Your lung capacity will improve daily after quitting, and it takes two weeks to six months for your lung functioning to improve by 30 percent. Just in case that last stat makes you think you should wait six month after quitting smoking to run, don't. Exercise can help you fight nicotine cravings. I think once you start running, you won't want to smoke since it will interfere with your runs. I highly recommend the Couch to 5k program as a way to start running.

Good luck and know that your lungs are really happy you quit smoking.


Join The Conversation
NDiva NDiva 8 years
So what's a smoking runner to do? I still sneak off and smoke but I run almost every day. The funny thing was when I first started to run. I would smoke weed. So I was running high as a kite. I ran long and far. I must admit, it really helped me. Now I just run. (No weed involved.) That's because my boyfriend made me stop. But I still sneak a cig. smoke here and there.
Angela123 Angela123 8 years
Congrats!! Today is my 92nd day without a cigarette! I run all the time, it's unbelievable how much better it feels to run and BREATHE now, even after only 3 months..
herfallingstar herfallingstar 8 years
I've recently quit smoking too. I was between 10 and 20 a day, depending. I've just taken up running and although I can feel the damage done, I also know that it will get easier as time passes. I guess don't push yourself too hard when just starting your running, otherwise you'll only hurt yourself. Still...many congrats1
I used to smoke too and am also an avid runner, in fact I ran during the 3 years I smoked. I am able to run longer and feel great after only 6 months of quitting. I don't have any weird coughs and I've found that running even helps reduce cravings (if you still ever get them).
aimeeb aimeeb 8 years
Kudos for quitting!
iieee_grrl iieee_grrl 8 years
I smoked for years and took up running about 6 weeks after quitting. That was 3 years ago and I have now run 37 5k's, 12 Half Marathons and ran my first Marathon last april. As you get further away from your quit date, you'll find it your endurance getting easier to build, but I'm so glad I did both - quit and start!
Lovely_1 Lovely_1 8 years
I havent' had a smoke in ages! Even a primetime! Yay for me!
sham28 sham28 8 years
The answer to this one is fairly obvious. Run.
jdeprima jdeprima 8 years
I've been off the cancer sticks for exactly a year now, after smoking at various intensities for more than a decade. I ran in a half-assed way while I was smoking (i.e., maybe two 5k's a week); I increased my frequency and distance after I quit and managed a half-marathon by summer and plan to compete in two more this year.
laellavita laellavita 8 years
running actually helped me quit smoking. i'd hold off on the cigarettes all day, and when i finally couldn't handle it anymore in the afternoon, i'd force myself to go for a run, away from my smokes. after i was done, i'd feel so refreshed, i didn't want to smoke for the rest of the day. i now run 10ks regularly and am training for a half-marathon, and havent smoked in two years.
halfbakedjake halfbakedjake 8 years
There used to be a guy who'd show up to the local road races smoking, run and win his age group in the 10k, and then resume smoking. Strangest contradictory behaviour in my opinion, and he eventually died of lung cancer in his 40s despite being relatively healthy otherwise.
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